Friday, May 18, 2007
Linguistic Plutology-the author's coinage for linguistic evaluation of the ideological implications of linguistic terms in economic contexts.
"Supply" and "demand" supposedly drive price in a capitalist economy. We all know what they mean, but through the semantic narrowing of these generalized terms, their larger meanings have been reduced to mere mechanics of existing production systems. "Demand" is for all intents and purposes, the combined quantity of sales and orders for an existing product or service. "Supply" is the capability of an organization to produce or give enough to fulfill those existing requests.
Capitalistic semantic narrowing diverts attention from states of lack existing in humans themselves independent of the economic circumstances in which they find themselves. "Demand" under these conditions is forcibly understood not as lack, but rather, as a request backed with money thereby belying the significance of true needs and desires themselves and whether or not their fulfillment is available anywhere for any price. Needs and desires untranslated into the economic medium do not count in current economic views. For so long as this is the case unrepresented realities will continue to be excluded from estimations, predictions or planning with unknown and unknowable consequences for the society as a whole.
The same thing happens in academic studies of marketing. In one marketing textbook, Principles of Marketing by Philip Kotler, an idiosyncratic definition of "need" and "want" are presented. Sure, your mother taught you to distinguish between needs and wants. You need to drink a certain amount of water to stay alive. You want that model airplane kit, but you'll have to save your allowance to buy it. Semantic narrowing of "need" and "want" in the field of marketing defined need by this example: "a way to hang a picture." A nail, therefore, was what was wanted but something superior to a nail could come along and ruin the nail business--so remember to consider the need and be willing to revamp the want at any time.
Consumeristic semantic narrowing transforms "necessity" and "comfort, convenience, or luxury" into a system that no longer enacts judgements about basics and extras. Indeed, such distinctions are undesirable in the effort to persuade people into consumption patterns in which "necessity" is an ever expanding category. The meaningful discussion around desires and forms thus subsumes the continuum of need to want and erases it from consciousness in the practice of "supply."